Thursday, October 25, 2007

Richard Jefferies - Story of my Heart

Trefoil's rich tapestry

One of the joys of the internet is to read the books of people long dead, and to suddenly realise that they express in their words the same feelings that we experience ourselves. At first, as I patiently copied it from Gutenberg, and then realigned it in 'word' I had to stop and just take in the words they were such a revelation. Here was a man trying to express his innermost thoughts, trying to reach down to that 'soul' part we so easily speak of. But this rapture that he experienced, this spiritual ecstasy was transcended into the natural world so exquisitely that he looked outward rather than into that vanity of 'me'. He did not have a camera to record all those things he saw so vividly, so he painted with his words. The soft chalk downland, the long walk of three miles, was it to Liddington, that he sat next to a beautiful tapestry prayer cushion of wild flowers - trefoils, a prayer cushion he could not kneel on, the vivid azure blue of the sky, the parched fields in the heat, all this you can feel and experience; his sadness at the wearisome monotonous daily drudgery of life. And then this escape into nature, the sheer joy of the living world around him suddenly bursts exuberantly forth.
The following piece that occurs by a tumulus as he muses on its long dead occupant, somewhat getting his dates wrong but that can be forgiven, the realisation that good old mechanical time is just a construct humans make up to make sense of our turning world in the wider cosmos of the universe appeals to me. There is nothing more fulfilling to sit quietly in the sun by an ancient longbarrow such as West Kennet, Stony Littleton or Wayland Smithy and feel that intangible pull of long ago humans, the feeling that sometimes they will people the ground in front of you carrying out the duties that they too had to perform in the daily ritual of life......

"Sweetly the summer air came up to the tumulus, the grass sighed softly, the butterflies went by, sometimes alighting on the green dome. Two thousand years! Summer after summer the blue butterflies had visited the mound, the thyme had flowered, the wind sighed in the grass. The azure morning had spread its arms over the low tomb; and full glowing noon burned on it; the purple of sunset rosied the sward. Stars, ruddy in the vapour of the southern horizon, beamed at midnight through the mystic summer night, which is dusky and yet full of light. White mists swept up and hid it; dews rested on the turf; tender harebells drooped; the wings of the finches fanned the air--finches whose colours faded from the wings how many centuries ago!Brown autumn dwelt in the woods beneath; the rime of winter whitened the beech clump on the ridge; again the buds came on the wind-blown hawthorn bushes, and in the evening the broad constellation of Orion covered the east. Two thousand times! Two thousand times the woods grew green, and ring -doves built their nests. Day and night for two thousand years—light and shadow sweeping over the mound--two thousand years of labour by day and slumber by night. Mystery gleaming in the stars, pouring down in the sunshine, speaking in the night, the wonder of the sun and of far space, for twenty centuries round about this low and green-grown dome. Yet all that mystery and wonder is as nothing to the Thought that lies therein, to the spirit that I feel so close. Realising that spirit, recognising my own inner consciousness, the psyche, so clearly"

Old wood


richly flowered meadow turf

The delicate harebell

And to add to this, Bill Byron's words that he made in a speech as new President of the CPRE. The speech was entitled ' A Cherished Land' and with his love of numbers and statistics he worked out that Great Britain is but 0.0174069% of the planet earth, and is dangerously finite and every bit should be cherished. He says, to quote;

"..The countryside remains one of this country's supreme achievement, I know of no landscape anywhere that is more universally appreciated, more visited and walked across and gazed upon, more artfully worked, more lovely to behold, more comfortable to be in than the countryside of England"

Perhaps this is why he chose to live here, but his figures do make one wonder at how much history resides in every square inch of this country. Apparently if you were to visit one parish church a day it would take you 54 years to accomplish it. There are approximately 60 million acres which just allows each one of us an acre each to cherish.

19,000 scheduled ancient monuments, 600,000 recorded archaeological sites, 100,000 miles of public footpaths, 250,000 miles of hedgerow, the list goes on. When I started this particular blog, I was remembering the hawk I had spied near to The Ridgeway by Uffington, I had escaped the mad road system round Swindon and headed for Liddington fort on the horizon. The hawk hovering in the air was a reminder that the real natural world goes on impervious to our frenetic drive to succeed at whatever, the hawks great (how many greats in the life of a hawk) grandparents could have been witnessed by Jefferies, the world's mind spiralling down in the flight of the hawk through the eternity that Jefferies wanted to touch and experience.

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